The practice of agriculture began roughly 8,000 years ago. The first recorded use of pesticides was about 4,500 years ago.
Sulfur compounds were used by the Sumerians in order to control the pests. Around 2,500 BC, farmers began to experiment with sulfur compounds to control mites and insects. Botanical pesticides were used in China for seed treatments. A popular treatment that arose in 950 BC was the burning of materials. Materials such as straw, animal horns, and chaff were burned to keep insects and pests away. Practices remained relatively the same for a long time after that up until the 1800s. In 1880 the first commercial spraying machine was invented to make the application of pesticides easier and faster for farmers. In 1890 lead arsenic gains popularity for insect control bt it was later revealed about a decade later the great dangers associated with lead arsenic.
In 1921 the first aerial insecticide applications began in Ohio. By 1930 farmers began using synthetic organic compounds for their crops. Sodium Chlorate and sulphuric acid was widely used for pest control up until the 1940s.The popularity of synthetic pesticides rapidly grew in the 1940s. Many new pesticides were developed which were very effective and inexpensive. DDT was the most popular insecticide discovered by Swiss entomologist, Paul Mu?ller.
It was shown to have low toxicity to mammals and reduced insect borne diseases. Paul Miller went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the agricultural industry with his work with DDT. Crop yields and profits improved drastically for any farmers. Health concerns were never too big of the public’s concern until the 1950s when Rachel Carson released her book Silent Spring.
Carson highlighted the dangers DDT can cause to the environment and the biodiversity of the environment. By the end of the 1960s a large environmental awareness movement had manifested in the United States. The movement took a major effort to reevaluate the role of pesticides in US agriculture.
The end result ending up being the banning of DDT and and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ). The EPA has taken many actions to ban the use of certain pesticides and insecticides in an attempt to limit the dangers to the environment.In 1959, Integrated Pest Management ( IPM ) in introduced.
IPM is a system used to control pests and the damage they cause by controlling the biology of the plants and the ecosystem around them. IPM slows the development of resistance to pesticides and causes less damage to the ecosystem than traditional pesticides. Pesticides can cause an ecosystem to become unbalanced by accidentally killing surrounding species that are not meant to be affected but IPM removes that issue by being able to only target pests. The effectiveness of IPM didn’t go unnoticed for long.
The popularity grew dramatically and eventually in 1972, the government passed The Federal Environmental Pesticides Control Act and the USDA began funding IPM research. Countries around the world experienced great success with IPM techniques. In 1996 the first transgenic crops were created and created the trend of genetically modified crops. Many health concerns have risen to the consumption genetically modified food, and has slowed the adoption of some IPM technologies.
Pesticides have shown a wide range of benefits to farmers, the population, and the economy. While some health and environmental concerns have surfaced with the use of pesticides and IPM, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Modern day pesticide use is 50-fold of what it was during the 1950s and 2.3 million tonnes of industrial pesticide is now used every year.
Scientists have gone from spraying chemicals on crops to changing the biological makeup of the crops themselves.